Magic coach Noeline Taurua admits her team underestimated the physical abilities of Donna Wilkins in their first- round loss to the Southern Steel in Invercargill on Monday night.
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty side opened their ANZ Championship campaign with a 49-47 defeat, having gone into the match as a far classier side on paper and letting slip a six-goal three-quarter time lead.
The Magic, who possess two of the competition's best defenders in Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin, were outplayed by the wily Steel shooting combination of Jodi Brown and Wilkins, who capitalised on the visitors' high error rate.
"I think, if I'm to be honest, maybe with Donna she exceeded the expectations," Taurua said.
"She only had a baby [her third] in January, so for her to be physically able, I think she's done a fantastic job.
"We always knew mentally she was going to be there, but I think, physically, we didn't put enough presence on her to make her work hard."
Taurua wasn't worried about her defenders, who both had a height advantage over their opponents, as she said time will tell how they go against other players.
"I think if we acknowledge that our ones weren't that good and not give credit to the opposition, then we'd be doing them a bit of a disservice," Taurua said.
It wasn't only the Magic's defence that let them down though – their flow through court was poor and they made far too many mistakes.
"We had a lot of ball in the forward line and we had a lot of ball coming out of the defence end, but we weren't able to convert it because of errors," Taurua said. "It's about relishing that when we do get turnover ball so that we actually score."
In the debrief straight after the game, there were moments of silence and a realisation that plenty has to be rectified to be a force in the competition.
"We've got to take this loss on the chin and just get on with it," Taurua said, adding they "learnt a lot" from it.
"We have another game next week and we have to get better."
Taurua revealed that debutante Jess Waitapu began the match at goal attack because Julianna Naoupu wasn't 100 per cent right, having been on antibiotics to cure a haematoma on her mouth.
And Taurua added that Waitapu's benching at quarter time was injury related.
She suffered a possible tear to the calf, with more to be known at training today.
- Waikato Times
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